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French-African funk

In Focus

The New York Film Festival, which officially kicks off tomorrow at Lincoln Center and runs through October 14, turns 51 this year. We've experienced the cinematic selections at the Cannes, Toronto and Venice, but New York always knows to bring an international perspective and provocative edge to the festivities. And while I welcome every odd Al Pacino cameo in a Adam Sandler flick, it's always refreshing to see your Hollywood favorites sink their teeth into grittier roles.

Having loved Tom Hanks in Castaway ("WILSON!"), I can't wait to see him on troubled waters again in Paul Greengrass's epic survival tale, Captain Phillips, which screens opening night. The film has already garnered substantial buzz for its graphic retelling of the 2009 seizure of cargo ship Maersk Alabama and its crew by Somali pirates.

The fantastical film adaptation of James Thurber's 1939 short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is very much of-the-time and features Ben Stiller as the film's daydreaming protagonist. Through vast adventures in his mind, Mitty escapes the monotony of his photo editing job at LIFE Magazine until the real world beckons him to search for a legendary photographer. Bonus points for Kristen Wiig in a dramatic turn.

Spike Jonze's Her looks to a future consumed by technology. (Doesn't seem too far off, does it?) In the film, Theodore, played by the always intense Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with his new computer operating system that features a personal assistant, Samantha — voiced by the throaty Scarlett Johansson. Turning science-fiction into social commentary, Jonze breaks new ground with this new-age love story.

Can't wait to see which of the above selections are on the ballot come Oscars season.

For more of my New York picks and travel finds, check out Travel Curator.

Happy Journeys!

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